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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

Tag Archives: Boston Celtics

Alright, so the Washington Wizards lost a tough one against the Boston Celtics last night and now start the season 0-3 for the second straight year. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Obviously it would have been nice to begin the season on a strong note, but once again the Wizards accidentally put diesel fuel in their unleaded tank before to season, which means we can’t start the car until it goes it goes into the repair shop.

Yes, it was a painful 100-94 overtime loss, and one in which was in the Wizards reach the entire time, but it was far from a bad loss. There were definitively some positives attached to this one that the Wizards can hopefully use to build upon for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee to hopefully break this streak. The tendency after a loss is to look at all the negatives, and while I will chew out some of the Wizards here, I’m going to also take a look at a few of the good takeaways from this game.

1.) Statistically, the Washington Wizards are doing a lot of things right

Anytime you can stay on par with a team rebounding (44 for both teams), have about the same amount of assists (the Wizards had 25, the Celtics 26) and steals, and have more blocks, you really just can’t complain about effort levels. The Wizards are actually doing a decent job on the boards (save for the first game when Varejao grabbed more balls than a ballboy at Wimbeldon) and distributing the ball effectively in spite of not having their lead man, John Wall. Nene is unhealthy and Wall is out, yet the Wizards are not slipping too far.

When those guys return from injury, Washington will most assuredly improve in two categories and perhaps that will lead to a few more wins at the end of the day. Everyone is fighting for rebounds, and while Okafor has been downright awful so far for Washington (his worst game coming against Boston yesterday), I think he can improve in the long run with another power forward on the court like Nene who helps with rebounding.

2.) Bradley Beal showed signs of “getting it”

Yesterday, after hearing some grumblings of Beal crying after his second loss of the season, a lot of Wizards fans were ready to start ragging on the kid (on Twitter someone actually said, “He probably listens to a lot of Cher”) for being mentally soft. I didn’t exactly do that, as it is common knowledge that NBA players are, in fact, made of the same flesh and bone as the average Joe and I hate to break it to you, but everyone gets overly emotional sometimes. That being said, yesterday may have been an eye opener for Beal in terms of learning how to play shooting guard for the Wizards.

Beal scored a career high 16 points last night on 6-of-15 shooting from the field (3-of-8 from long range) and looked far, far more assertive than in his last two games. He was openly looking to shoot the ball, which is great because it is what he was brought in here to do. No, he’s not shooting 50% from the floor and his deep ball still needs some work, but last night was the first sign that Beal may actually be coming into his own as a player.

The good thing about Beal is that in other aspects of the game he is already getting it. His four rebounds and three assists are the second time this season Beal has had at least three rebounds and three assists in the same game. So he’s still figuring things out offensively as a young player, that’s fine. If he is actually contributing in other ways outside of just shooting the ball, I can live with that from a young guy.

3.) A.J. Price can’t always shoot, but he is filling in alright in other areas

The good thing about A.J. Price? He isn’t a shoot-first ask questions later type of point guard. Price isn’t a pure passer like Rondo, but he does try to get his teammates involved enough so that the offense isn’t stagnant. Price now has two games with 6 or more assists under his belt, and even though those numbers aren’t astronomical, I’m pleased with the results on that end. That number could be higher if Washington was capable of hitting shots on a more consistent basis, so it might actually get better the more he and the Wizards play. Not to mention the fact that Price has grabbed 4 and 5 rebounds in the last two games, which isn’t too shabby for a point guard.
The bad thing about A.J. Price? He shoots even though he can’t. Last night he shot 6-of-13 from the floor, which is his best on the season, but by and large Price has been a pretty poor shooter. On the season he has made 11-of-37 shots for 30% in total (ugh). The biggest problem with him is that he takes way too many three pointers for a guy who isn’t very good at shooting them. Price has attempted 22 three’s on the season, making only 30% of them. It might get better, but then it might get worse, too. His averages for his career would imply that he will not be effective at three pointers for the whole season. If he is launching early in the shot clock three pointers, the Wizards are going to have a hard time winning.

4.) The Wizards need to get to the line more often

This one is pretty simple. Last night, Washington only shot 7 free throws the entire game. It’s hard to win when your team isn’t taking advantage of free points. They benefit everyone by pacing the game, and can get opponents in foul trouble that can take them out of their comfort zone. The reason for the poor performance at getting to the line falls on a few players, but mainly Kevin Seraphin and Bradley Beal.

Beal should be getting to the line a whole lot more, honestly. It would improve his shooting numbers and make his life a whole lot easier by giving him more space. Creating contact is a learned skill, but it’s one in which Beal should learn quickly. He is athletic enough (I think) to get to the rack at will and his body is NBA ready to absorb that contact while staying healthy. It is just a matter of execution.

As for Seraphin, while I love his new found jump shot, I would also love if he used that soft touch down low to bang a little bit and force people to foul him. He could convert a lot of and-1′s that way, and get opposing big men off the floor quickly. His soft touch is dangerous from down low, and he should really keep improving as the season goes along at using it.

5.) Stop playing Ariza…

Sometimes you just want to sit Ariza down and say, “So what is it, exactly, that you do here?” I’m still trying to figure out what he does other than miss shots and supposedly play stingy defense. Last night’s 1-of-6 performance now brings his shooting percentage to 22% on the year, having not shot better than 40% (basically the Mendoza line of basketball) thus far. Either cut his minutes down and start Singleton or relegate him to the bench as a situational defensive starter. He doesn’t do anything on the court, and I’m not sure why he is in the starting lineup unless Wittman is some guru who knows something we don’t.

Other than Ariza, the starting lineup is fine as-is.

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Washington @ Boston, 7:30 PM

TV: CSNW

RADIO: 980AM

RECORD: Washington (0-2), Boston (1-2)

Why you should watch: Grudge Match

This second game has an almost college-like feel to it, as the Wizards play the Celtics for the second time in five days to finish up this home-home matchup. The first game was marred by Washington’s slow start in the first quarter, where nothing was going in and the defensive stops were similarly not happening. The starters have gotten off to a bad start in both games this season, and that has to change in order for the Wizards to win.

Luckily, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford came off the bench to help alleviate some of the listlessness of the starting five. Seraphin didn’t miss a shot until midway through the third quarter, and he finished with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and chipped in 7 rebounds as well. Crawford, meanwhile, had 21 points on an efficient shooting night but rolled his ankle during the game and hasn’t really practiced all week since.

For the Wizards to win, they are going to need Crawford healthy, but more importantly they are going to need more out of their starters. That includes the young Bradley Beal, who failed to make a shot in his home opener. Without question, Beal is going to want to make up for that again and try to win the matchup against Courtney Lee tonight. Through two games Ariza has been a complete nonfactor, and Okafor simply cannot provide the offense expected of him (though defensively he hasn’t been entirely brutal). Adding Nene would help, but he is still listed as questionable.

Underlying Storylines

1.) Bradley Beal’s Zeal

As I stated before, Bradley Beal was downright awful in his home opener. He got some lawn chairs, a portable TV, and coronas and just posted up at the three point line all night expecting others to do the work for him. Well, that strategy didn’t work (and it rarely does against the Celtics), so it’s back to the drawing board for Beal. His struggles can be blamed on his youth, but at the same time the #3 pick isn’t paid to be youthful; he is paid to score points and be aggressive.

Beal can get back on track, but Courtney Lee is a tough guy to go up against. His tendencies are to not leave his man and play him tough. Beal should be constantly moving without the ball to create open looks for himself and force Lee to always be on the move. Finding open lanes is going to be, really, the only time he will get to score. Let’s hope he doesn’t put up another dud, or he may find himself sopping up bench minutes (and I really, don’t think he’s a bench player).

2.) Will Jordan Crawford be healthy?

That’s a big one. Jordan Crawford was the biggest reason the Wizards were even in the game last Saturday, and if his ankle is not right it could spell doom for Washington. His spark off the bench is one that I was calling for in the offseason simply because he is, as my colleague stated, “a microwave.” He can heat up at the push of a button, or he can go cold after an amount of time. Either way, it looks great when he comes in and carries the load.

He hasn’t practiced, but I can imagine the Wizards only did that as a precautionary move so as not to further stress the injury. If Crawford can’t cut to the basket as well on drives and has to rely on his outside shooting, Washington is going to hurt.

Prediction

Washington goes to the Garden and slaps a Boston team upside the head for a revenge win thanks to stronger performances by their starters. Beal finally has his breakout game and the Wizards take the W on the road.
100-97 Washington

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Bradley Beal – US Presswire

Knowing that Doc Rivers typically prepares his team adequately on defense, I figured that Bradley Beal would face a stiff test early in his career against the Celtics. Boston is no longer the best defensive team in the league, as they were when Garnett first arrived (age has slowed them down), but they are still very challenging for offensive players and provide fantastic help defense. They also have Courtney Lee, who was tasked with keeping Bradley Beal in check for the majority of the game. And, well, he basically did that and then some.

I followed Beal the entire game trying to get a good look at what he does right, and what he does wrong on both the offensive and defensive ends. Needless to say, Bradley Beal’s home opener will be one that he would like to forget for a long time, as it may very well go down as one of the worst games of his career. He looked lost most of the time on the court, and failed to make his mark on the game (which actually ended up getting him benched for large parts of the game), with a final stat line of 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assists on 0-for-5 shooting in 21:52 minutes of play. We’ll start by breaking down his offensive performance.

OFFENSE

Offensively the biggest problem I saw with Beal was his lack of aggression. For someone who has such a smooth stroke, he was amazingly passive during this game, and never established himself early on offensively. I understand playing within the flow of the game could ultimately help the team more, but Beal failed to attempt a shot until the 5 minute mark of the first quarter, where he bricked a jumper that was lightly contested. It seemed like he just wanted to get his first shot up, as it looked a little hurried.

Rushed shots will happen when any player spends the majority of the game hanging out by the three point line doing absolutely nothing. Beal was not brought in to be a spot up shooter, but that’s exactly how he was playing on Saturday night. On essentially every possession, Beal stood in the same spot and didn’t move at all. Courtney Lee actually left him a few times because he was such a non-factor in the offense. When he was open, A.J. Price didn’t exactly find him, but that isn’t fault. The two times that Beal did get the ball at the three point line, he missed the shots (although in fairness, one barely rimmed out). So his experiment at being J.J. Redick for a game failed.

The only real positive play he made on the offensive end, as much as that pains me to say, is when he aggressively drove to the basket and drew contact for two free throws early in the third quarter. It was notable only because Beal did what he could and should have done all game long, which is get to the rack. He tried the same thing once again, but missed pretty badly when the foul wasn’t called.

Now, part of his offensive struggles were due to the fact that Courtney Lee (and occasionally Rajon Rondo) were guarding him. Rondo is a solid defender, but Lee is a pretty darn good one, and it showed against Beal. Most of the time Lee just pushed Beal back to the three point line, but that was about it. Beal never pressed the issue on offense and made Lee’s job pretty easy. If he can’t get more aggressive against the Celtics next game, the results will be the exact same. The Celtics are difficult in that they are physical on the defensive end, and even if you beat one defender, their help defense is second to very few teams, so there is another player to beat as well. Beal is going to have to learn that quickly, and adjust accordingly. Hanging out at the three point line is far from what he was brought in to do.

DEFENSE

Defensively, Bradley Beal should be considered lucky that Courtney Lee was not having the best offensive performance, because he fared pretty poorly overall against him. Courtney Lee was 0-for-4 on three point shots, but that wasn’t because of tight defense by Beal. It was because he missed open, uncontested shots. The Celtics ball movement confused Beal a lot, as he was caught ball watching a lot on the court. Lee came off screens and found himself wide open on the three point line at least twice. Beal tried to recover and contest the shot, but by the time he jumped to get into Lee’s face, the ball was already in the air.

On another possession, Lee spun off Beal on the low block, spun off him and went straight to the rack for a layup. There should have been some help defense there, but Beal got taken to task relatively quickly. It was a veteran move by Lee, and there isn’t much Beal could do except try to stay in front of him. That didn’t happen, though. Beal isn’t slow, but he also isn’t fast enough to hug the guy he is defending so closely. His lateral movement stuck out as being less than stellar.

Overall, when Beal was out of the game the Celtics actually fared worse on offense. Beal is a young player, and becoming a world class defender doesn’t happen overnight. Luckily, everything he did was correctable, and it didn’t stem from a lack of effort on his part. He will learn eventually not to ball watch, and will certainly do a better job at staying in front of his opponents and fighting through screens (which the Celtics run plenty of). But for his second game, at least, Beal gets a D on defense.

Game Grade

F.

Beal failed to do anything offensively or defensively, and while an F may seem harsh, he was one of the worst players on the court and deserved the grade. He and Ariza looked pretty bad out there, and as a result they got benched for large parts of the game. Hopefully against the Celtics next game, Beal will perform a whole lot better.

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So much for starting off on the right foot at home for the Washington Wizards. After a sluggish first quarter that saw the Washington Wizards manage only 12 points, the 16 point defecit the Celtics built up proved a tad too much for Kevin Seraphin and Co. In spite of going on torrid run in the second quarter that saw the Wizards score thirty points thanks in large part to a eight points from Kevin Seraphin (on jumpers, to boot), the Washington Wizards never led until late in the fourth quarter. With the game close and the Wizards able to win on a last second shot, poor execution damned them as Martell Webster forced up an ugly shot off the inbound. That was all she wrote after that.

Wizard(s) of the Game

Jordan Crawford (21 points, 4 rebounds, three assists) and Kevin Seraphin (19 points, 7 rebounds)

Were it not for Jordan Crawford and Kevin Seraphin, the Washington Wizards would have suffered an absolute blowout loss. Seraphin looked like he hadn’t missed a beat despite missing the season opener on Tuesday, showcasing a newly refined jumper as he connected on his first 5 shots of the game. His range made life difficult for a much older Garnett, and his floor spacing helped Jordan Crawford, our other player of the game, get to the basket consistently.

These two made all the difference tonight, and perhaps the more amazing part is that they did it off the bench. Crawford may have very well stolen Bradley Beal’s starting spot in the rotation with his play, but that remains a big question. He hurt his ankle late in the game going to the basket, and while he still played the remainder of the game, he did not look nearly as explosive throughout. I’m not sure if he’s going to miss any time, but the Wizards certainly can’t afford it if he does.

Goat(s) of the Game

Beal and Ariza

Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal went a combined 0-for-9 from the field tonight, and looked completely lost out there at times. Neither played with the type of aggression they were both brought in here to provide, and proved instead to be liabilities, leading to them getting yanked from the game for the majority of the second half. Beal had a very hard time getting around Courtney Lee, who followed him around the court relentlessly and never gave him much space. Outside of a singular drive to the basket for some free throws, the remainder of the game was marred by his bad habit of hanging around the three point line and not moving. He’s young, so I don’t expect him to get it right away, but he certainly made the Celtics look like world class defenders (the same Celtics who lost by 20 points in both their previous games).

As for Ariza, he is what he is, which is to say he is not really an offensive threat when his jumper isn’t falling. His stat line tells the story, and you’d be hard pressed to find a fan in the arena who even realized he was on the court. His minutes may go down if he isn’t providing offense, isn’t providing defense, and isn’t providing anything else beneficial. In the press conference, though, Wittman was persistent that there would not be any lineup changes in the future. It is still the second game of the season, so that may be the rational move.

What’s Next

Same team, different arena. The Wizards travel to Boston to complete their home-and-home against the Celtics and hopefully snap their two game losing streak and right the ship, so to speak. Seraphin will have another game under his belt, as will Beal, and hopefully the Wizards will come out with much more intensity than they did to start their home opener.

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Verizon Center (Washington D.C.) – 7 pm

Television: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: 106.7 The Fan DC

Starting Lineups

PG: Rajon Rondo vs. A.J. Price

SG: Courtney Lee vs. Bradley Beal

SF: Paul Pierce vs. Trevor Ariza

PF: Brandon Bass vs. Trevor Booker

C: Kevin Garnett vs. Emeka Okafor

Why you should watch:

IT’S THE WIZARDS HOME OPENER!!!!! Sorry for the excitement there but the 2012-2013 home schedule for our Wiz Kids kicks off Saturday night at the Phone Booth against one of the best teams in the East, if you can’t get up for that then I am not sure you are a basketball fan. All summer long Wizards fans waited for the chance to cheer on their own team again and it is finally upon us. Are these the Wizards we might have expected to see? Well to put it simply, no it’s not, injuries have already begun to plague this roster and we still have 81 games to go so there is cause for concern in the Nation’s Capital.

When healthy, this is a roster than can compete with any team in the league which is a far cry from what we watched last year as Ernie and co., ran the knuckleheads out of town en route to another high lottery selection. This year’s team gives Wizards fans hope that, once healthy, we actually have a team that can compete in the division and the conference to the point where we won’t be content playing for ping pong balls in March and April. New seasons bring new beginnings and I, for one, and extremely hopeful that this year’s installment will get the Wizards back on track to making another playoff run sooner rather than later (This is not solely based on the fact we’re credentialed media now either…Doesn’t hurt though!).

Underlying story lines:

1) Will Kevin Seraphin play, and if so, how effective will he be?

The French big man that broke onto the scene last year and made us all SeraPhans is, according to his twitter at least, back! Whether the team doctors clear him to play or not remain to be seen but were Seraphin to make his season debut tomorrow night there couldn’t be a better team for it to come against. With Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett the Celtics have one strong front line that the Wizards will need to make a concerted effort to keep them off of the glass as much as possible. If Anderson Varejao was able to pull down 23 rebounds on his own against the Wizards front line in the season opener I don’t want to imagine what a bruiser like Bass and a crafty vetter like KG could do given the same opportunity.

 2) How will A.J. Price handle going against Rondo?

A.J. Price had a rough go of it in Cleveland the other night connecting on only two of the nine three pointers he attempted. After shooting a shade over to 50% from deep in the preseason I would assume it was just nerves taking over in his first start with the Wizards as he has proven he can be relied upon to hit that shot to the coaching staff already. I am a lot more concerned with how he handles Rondo defensively however. It is no secret that Rajon Rondo has transformed himself one of the league’s best floor generals and can be an absolute nightmare for opposing teams to guard. Kyrie Irving was essentially allowed to do whatever he pleased against this Wizards backcourt, if Rondo is offered the same opportunity it could spell one long night for the Wizards.

Prediction:

Call me a homer all you want but I am anticipating a packed Verizon Center this Saturday night and a Wizards victory. The Celtics played a game they would like to forget against the Heat in their season opener giving up 120 points while turning the ball over 15 times. While this may have been an aberration for the Celtics we have nothing else to judge them by than by at the moment than their first game. If they don’t lock things up on the defensive end and become less careless with the basketball they will be in for a rude awakening in DC.

Wizards: 102

Celtics: 95

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By: Colenda

After an Olympic break from Diming, I’ve decided to pick up where I left off by examining league-wide offseason activity. And with the happenings over the last two weeks, it made it a perfect time to get back on the horse. The Atlantic Division has spent the summer of 2012 constantly in the headlines. With multiple trades and free agent acquisitions, the Atlantic’s members have had a very busy offseason. In fact, each of the division’s five members has seen major roster overhauls and the addition of at least one player expected to take on a key role in 2012-13. Last year’s winner, the Celtics, have lost a member of its Big Three to the newest Big Three in Miami. However, they bolstered their roster with young players through the draft and the addition of sixth man extraordinaire, Jason “the Jet” Terry. The constantly scrutinized Knicks decided against bringing back Linsanity for an encore, and instead brought in veteran backcourt of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton. The 76ers finally decided to part ways with the underappreciated Andre Iguodala in a shocking move by joining in the fun of getting the better of new Magic GM, Rob Hennigan, in the Dwight Howard trade. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out how the Magic traded Howard for Bynum, yet somehow ended up getting Arron Afflalo and let Bynum head to Philly but that’s a story for another column (a shameless plug for the Southeast division’s recap to follow). Raptor fans (they exist, right?) no longer have to wait for last year’s highly drafted Jonas Valanciunas, as he will make his NBA debut this season. They also added veterans Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields to a team clearly hoping to try and stay afloat in this extremely competitive division. With the Barclay’s Center expected to open to start the season, the Nets are now official residents of Brooklyn. Although they really blew it with the new logo, they did manage to get a second star (although you could argue there isn’t a more over rated “star” than Joe Johnson) via trade to ensure they could lock up free agent Deron Williams long-term. All-in-all it has been a very eventful offseason in the Atlantic division. Now a let’s take a closer look at the happenings for each of the division’s members:

Boston Celtics (1st place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger, Jason Terry, Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Courtney Lee
Players Lost: Ray Allen, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic, Jermaine O’Neal
The Dime: Ray Allen has packed his bags for sunny weather and wide-open corner threes playing alongside DWade and LeBron in Miami. Entering the scene is one of the NBA’s top sharp-shooters, Jason Terry, someone much more comfortable in the reserve role which he is expected to play behind the emerging Avery Bradley. The Celtics drafted the free-falling Jared Sullinger late in the first round, and Syracuse’s suspended Brazilian center, Fab Melo, as well as his college teammate Kris Joseph in round two.  In addition to a strong draft Boston also secured the services of Jeff Green and Courtney Lee for next year. The Celtics have sufficiently re-tooled around Rondo, Garnett and Pierce for another run at the division crown and playoff glory. Obviously, the continued health of the aging Pierce and Garnett play are a major factor in whether Boston will be able to continue their Atlantic division dominance. With Allen gone, I will be interested in watching the continued offensive emergence off the defensive backcourt of Rondo and Bradley. Rondo is now a bona-fide star, in my opinion, and I think he is primed for his best year yet. Bradley began to show signs of a streaky outside jumper and a knack for scoring in the paint before his season was cut off pre-playoffs by injury. His ability to get healthy and pick up where he left off with his play late from last year will be one of the biggest factors in determining Boston’s success this season.
New York Knicks (2nd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Pablo Prigioni, Chris Smith, James White, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Chris Copeland, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd
Players Lost: Renaldo Balkman, Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Jeremy Lin, Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson, Jared Jefferies
The Dime: The Knicks were faced with a huge financial decision this year; sign Jeremy Lin and take a sizeable tax hit or let him walk and re-tool with cheaper players. They decided against bringing back Lin, and opted to give the keys to the car to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. Felton enjoyed his best season in New York playing for former coach, Mike Dantoni, and the Knicks are hoping the return to MSG will bring that type of production from Felton. Marcus Camby was also brought back for another stint to bolster their bench and provide additional shot-blocking depth behind foul-prone Tyson Chandler. However, the biggest news for the Knicks this summer has to be the play of Carmelo in the Olympics. In case you’ve been under a rock the last few weeks, Melo was a killer in Great Britain. Knicks faithful can only hope that he brings this form back to the U.S. and the NBA season in 2012-2013. I still think the Knicks are more glitter than substance, but if Melo can put the team on his shoulders like he did with Team USA at times during the Olympics, they should be able to compete for the division crown and a top spot in the East. Outside of Melo’s Olympic run the other massive storyline for MSG residents will be the health and play of the oft-injured, and highly-paid Amare Stoudamire. He’s being paid super-star money; he’s got to produce at a super-star level in order for this team to life up to the lofty expectations of New York media.
Philadelphia 76ers (3rd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie, Jason Richardson, Maalik Wayns, Nick Young, Andrew Bynum, Dorell Wright
Players Lost: Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Sam Young, Andres Nocioni, Elton Brand, Louis Williams
The Dime: The 76ers may have come away with the steal of the offseason. Somehow they finagled their way into the inevitable deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, they were the team that came away with the second-best player in the trade while not giving up the best. Hell, Iggy wasn’t even the third best player involved (I’ll help you save face some, Mr. Hennigan). I don’t think I will ever understand what the Magic were doing, but Doug Collins and company have to be thrilled. The Sixers will move forward and build around Bynum (if they can sign him next summer), Thad Young, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Spencer Hawes. Not a half-bad team. They also added my former teammate, and Philly native, Maalik Wayns, in free agency, as well as former Wizards Swaggy Young, and Kwawe Brown (Who has to be thrilled to re-unite with the man who made him cry in his second professional practice). Although the Sixers won’t compete to win the division, they will certainly be competitive and a playoff team for many years to come in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto Raptors (4th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Quincy Acy, Tomislav Zubcic, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, John Lucas, Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields
Players Lost: Aaron Gray, Rasual Butler
The Dime: NBA Canada made a run at bringing the nation’s prodigal son, Steve Nash, back north of the border. However, he spurned their offer and instead opted for LA (can you really blame him?). This did not prevent the Raptors from having a decent offseason, however. They added Kyle Lowry via trade, Landry Fields and John Lucas in free agency, and will get to see their last two first round picks, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas, begin their NBA careers together this year. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Raptors are primed to turn their losing ways around because of this offseason haul, but they are moving in the right direction. From all accounts, Valanciunas is a real stud and has the potential to be an impact player in the league. I haven’t personally seen him play, but I look forward to following this youngster develop. At least there is now a little reason to flip to a Raptors game if you find it on TV.
Brooklyn Nets (5th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Joe Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor, Ilkan Karaman,
Players Lost: Damian James, Mehmet Okur, Gerald Green, Jordan Farmer, Anthony Marrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams
The Dime: The Brooklyn Nets seemed to be on the verge of opening the new Barclay’s Center with Gerald Wallace as the team’s best player. Yikes. Luckily, they somehow swung a deal with the Hawks that landed them Joe Johnson right before Deron packed his bags for home (Dallas) and convinced the point guard that he had the help he so craved.  In my opinion, the Nets will be teaming up the two most overrated super-stars in the game today. They have the big contracts, but have never really taken a team on their back and led them to the promised  land (or even past the second round consistently). The two of them should produce one of the highest scoring backcourt duos in the league, and are natural fits alongside one-another, but I can’t see the pair teaming up to produce serious results where it matters, in the playoffs.  However, due to the offseason activity, the Nets will be more of a contender in the division, and should most certainly find themselves in the playoffs next year. Although I do not think a core of Williams and Johnson is going to make the Nets a championship contender, they will put on a good show for the new fans in Brooklyn. The moves will also make the conversation for best team in the city a little more interesting. The Russian Mark Cuban will be happy with the headlines, but not with the end product on the court. The team still has a ways to go before being a true championship contender, but the moves of this offseason have Brooklyn trending into the positive with a team that will be much more competitive than last season’s last place squad.

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